Vern Gambetta

Youth Sport Today – How We Got There

Where we are today in youth sport today with the “pay to play” model did not happen overnight. This post is meant give some historical context for why we are where we are today. This is excerpted from my new book that I am working on called “Developing Athletes.”

1969 when I started coaching was probably the height of the school based sport system in the US. For many reasons into the 1970’s and definitely by the early 1980’s much changed. Perhaps the biggest change was the gradual erosion of the mandatory daily physical requirement in the schools. There was more time devoted to academic subjects. The first subjects cut were physical education, then arts, then music and then theater arts because they were deemed non-academic. With cuts in physical education there were no longer jobs for specialist physical education teachers, consequently fewer and fewer PE teachers where hired. This quickly affected sports coaching, as the physical education teachers who had been the pool of sport coaches had their jobs eliminated. Schools now had to go outside the faculty to hire coaches. Many of these coaches had no background in pedagogy or any actual coaching experience; it was not long before a noticeable drop off in the quality of coaching in the schools occurred. In addition there was little continuity in the coaching from year to year because coaching stipends were minimal. Certainly it was not long before you began to see the effects in the young developing athlete. Those teachers that had entered the profession on completion of their schooling through the GI Bill were retiring and were not replaced as they retired. Over the forty plus years since I started coaching we have arrived at the point where today only two states have mandatory K-12 physical education and that requirement is somewhat watered down. In sports we are at the point where the majority of coaches in the schools are not faculty members. This has many implications that I will go into detail on later.

This resulted in the rise of outside sport teams that began in the late 1980’s grew in the 1990’s and has exploded in the new millennium. In basketball, baseball, soccer, softball, volleyball, lacrosse and to some extent track & Field and swimming sports outside the schools has taken precedence. Competition is no longer local but national in scope. Seasons are extended to mimic adult competition seasons with youngsters as young as 12 years old playing 100 plus baseball games a year, competing for national championships and youth world championships.

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